PALO ALTO, CA: The top-ranked Gamecocks traveled over 2,500 miles to stare down second-ranked Stanford in a high noon showdown at Maples Pavilion, Sunday. Through three quarters, Stanford was a half-stride faster, a little crisper offensively, and more ferocious on the boards. Entering the fourth quarter, it looked as if USC was going to be humbled and forced to leave California having finally met its match. But South Carolina summoned the strength to overcome a double-digit deficit, foul trouble and the partisan crowd to fight its way out of Palo Alto with a 76-71 overtime victory.
Stanford led for more than 40 minutes of game time, consistently fending off Gamecocks rallies with a clutch basket or defensive stand. South Carolina trailed 54-44 entering the fourth quarter before responding with a 10-1 run to reel the Cardinal close. Stanford answered back, however, and held a six-point lead with less two minutes remaining.
Facing an uphill battle, Aliyah Boston went to work. Boston worked herself into position for a layup to trim the lead to four and rebounded a Stanford miss to keep the Gamecocks hopes alive. Brea Beal got USC to within one with a 3-pointer before Stanford’s Haley Jones split a pair of foul shots to push the lead back to two. With six seconds on the clock, the Gamecocks were able to inbound the ball to Boston near the foul line. Boston used a quick dribble to free herself for a 13-foot jumper. Her effort was a bit strong and the ball skirted the rim, first off the back heel and then the front, before falling home and tying the game. The defending Player of the Year had sent the game into overtime with four points and four rebounds in the final 1:54 of regulation.
Boston often draws the attention, but it was a total team effort as USC held Stanford to 1 of 12 shooting in the fourth quarter and enjoyed a 34-9 advantage in bench scoring. Boston (14 points, 13 rebounds) fouled out with 28 seconds left in overtime moments after her driving layup put the Gamecocks up for good. The Cardinal had a couple of late chances but South Carolina forced a 5-second violation and Stanford was hit with a technical foul when a player called a timeout they didn’t have.
Zia Cooke (13 points) iced it with three free throws in the waning seconds. Bree Hall added a dozen points and two crucial 3-pointers, both coming in overtime.
South Carolina (4-0) will remain on the west coast and next visit Cal-Poly, Tuesday. Tipoff from San Luis Obispo is set for 8 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. Pacific).